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Saturday, 22 October 2011

Seeking, Sourcing, Sourc'd

Good food begins with good ingredients. How often have we been exhorted to find a really good butcher or fishmonger and develop a relationship with them? And how often are we told to develop a relationship with a greengrocer? The finest fillet steak or halibut can be cooked to perfection but poor accompanying vegetables will let the dish down.

We can’t all benefit from living in close proximity to a really good market or The Village Greengrocer in Castlemartyr (arguably the finest in Ireland) but vegetables of a superior quality to those in the average supermarket are an essential for good food.

I was thinking of making a gourmet piccalilli, with Christmas coming, and wanted to get the best ingredients I could, so after reading from Elmtree foods that their epic pies and local honey could be found in Sourc’d in Caerleon I decided to pay a visit.

Right on the outskirts of the village the shop, conveniently, had parking outside making the trip an easy one. The Greengrocers (and more) is run by David Saunders who describes himself as a “Purveyor of high quality fresh fruit; veg; welsh free range eggs; speciality breads & larder provisions. Local where possible, at supermarket prices or better”. An exciting description and one I wanted to put to the test.

The shop is small but packed with really good produce and laid out so you can see things logically laid out, the salads are together, veg and fruit have their own areas and potatoes have a special place to themselves.
Certainly everything on offer seemed to be very fresh and of outstanding quality, touch and smell tests confirmed this to be the case.

I was delighted to find Romanesco on offer, the amazing pyramidal cauliflower (well there’s a big debate about whether it is cauliflower or broccoli – or a strange hybrid of both) but it is my favourite vegetable for both taste and appearance. This would make a very good start to the piccalilli, now for other ingredients.

Small pickling onions, some small enough to go in whole - others halved or quartered, lurked next to their bigger brothers and cousin the shallots, and were cheaper than those which I had bought in a market last week. A chilli and a couple of courgettes joined them in my basket along with a couple of peppers – should make a good pickle.

But, it’s not just veg that fill this greengrocers, relevant other ingredients are available from organic, gluten free pasta through organic vinegars to the afore-mentioned honey and assorted pickles.
Locally baked breads from Wrens in Newport lay on a table in the middle next to the free range eggs and a basket of white duck eggs lay next to them. As I love scrambled eggs, especially duck, half a dozen naturally went into the basket.

Though my visit was fairly quick, and very focussed, the experience and in particular David’s friendliness and obvious enthusiasm, means that I will return to do my usual veg shopping on the weeks that I am not in Farmers Markets.

Caerleon has a little gem (no pun intended) and well worth a visit to a shop which is both Local and Great.

That Piccalilli recipe
1Romanesco, cut into small florets
1lb small (pickling)onions, sliced
5 shallots, finely diced
25 g salt
1 courgette, diced
1 Red Pepper diced
500 ml white wine vinegar
250 ml malt vinegar
1/2 redchilli, seeds removed, chopped
300 g caster sugar
25 g turmeric
50 g English mustard powder
3 tbsp cornmeal

Combine the cauliflower with the onion and shallots. Sprinkle with salt, cover, and leave on one side for 24 hours.

The next day, rinse the vegetables and pat dry. Sprinkle the courgette and pepper with salt, and leave on one side for 20 minutes before rinsing and drying with a clean cloth. Combine with the cauliflower mixture.

Boil both the vinegars with the chilli for 10 minutes, before straining through a sieve. Discard the chilli.

Mix the sugar with the turmeric, mustard powder and cornmeal. Moisten with a little of the warm vinegar - enough to make a paste.

Combine this paste with the rest of the vinegar, and bring back to the boil. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring, until thickened.

Tip the vegetables into the mixture, combine well, and leave to cool a little. Pot the piccalilli into sterilised preserving jars, and store in a cool place. It should be kept for at least 1 month to mature.

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